Uncool at any speed

Sheer heart attack: Just when you think California politicians can’t get any stupider. This week’s Democratic Underground list of the Top Ten Conservative Idiots includes not one, but two California Republicans in its list of right-leaning fools.

In the No. 5 position is one of the Republican candidates for the seat in Assembly District 25, down in the Modesto area. Bill Conrad got the nod for a recent campaign mailing in which he attacked Republican primary opponent Tom Berryhill for having had a heart transplant. Yep, in fliers headlined “Tom Berryhill Doesn’t have the HEART for State Assembly,” Conrad listed the survival statistics for heart recipients—an average of seven years post-transplant—and then said, “Severe stress SIGNIFICANTLY shortens the life expectancy” of heart-transplant patients.

Conrad didn’t comment on how voters in the 25th District should respond to a candidate who doesn’t have a brain. Perhaps we should ask the Wizard.

If they only had the nerve: Elsewhere in this sprawling summer issue, you’ll find a story about the late push being made by progressive and minority groups to get behind Bret Daniels for sheriff.

This week, Daniels added another hue to his rainbow coalition against Lou Blanas’ clone, John McGinness.

The Sacramento Valley Pink Pistols—a gun club for gays and lesbians—are throwing their support behind Daniels, too. The endorsement is less about the politics of gender identity than it is about Blanas’ long-standing reputation for issuing concealed-weapons permits to campaign contributors—while routinely denying them to average citizens.

When one of the Pink Pistols’ dignitaries asked delicately whether Daniels thought their blessing would hurt his candidacy (you know, their being gay and all), he classily replied that if anybody had a problem with it, he didn’t want their vote anyway. Besides, he noted, “I need all the help I can get.”

And what about the traditional guardian of this diverse constituency, the minorities, the politically disenfranchised? You remember them, don’t you? The Democrats? Well, they seem to be sitting this one out.

Neither the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee nor any of its member clubs have made any kind of endorsement in the sheriff’s race.

So, let’s add it up. You’ve got an autocratic administration that responds to any kind of criticism by going on the attack, that practices cronyism with gusto and that has been a complete disaster for blacks and Latinos. And the Democrats have nothing to say. Sound a little familiar?

The ultimate speed trap: To be honest, Bites has just about had it with the American people. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he’s going to prosecute journalists for doing their jobs, and you say, “OK, fine.” The fed taps your telephone and reads your e-mail, and you say, “No problem. I’ve got nothing to hide.” But this time, Bites thinks Big Brother has gone too far, even for you.

Bites refers to vehicle data recorders (VDRs), the surreptitious black boxes that became a common feature on automobiles with the advent of the air bag in the mid-1980s. Thanks to the increased data capacity of today’s black boxes and other modern technology, such as Global Positioning Systems, clever geeks can track your automobile’s exact whereabouts and, more importantly, the speed at which it is traveling. Let’s say you’re motoring down the interstate doing 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, just like everybody else. You arrive home, boot up the computer and check your e-mail, and, lo and behold, there’s a fresh speeding ticket issued by the California Highway Patrol in your inbox. There’s no fighting it, because the black box does not lie.

Is this what’s in store for motorists in the near future? It’s hard to say at this point. In 2004, California became the first state in the nation to regulate data collected from black boxes, requiring a court order or the owner’s permission to release the data. However, some experts say the state’s implied-consent law may make that regulation moot, and at a recent conference in Michigan, heart of the U.S. auto industry, insurance companies, safety experts and law-enforcement officials renewed their push to make black-box data readily available.

Don’t say Bites didn’t warn you.